Why is the internet so hot and cold in Vietnam?

Shark Attacks and Loading Bars: How Fast Is the Internet in Vietnam?

In How-To, Vietnam by Nick9 Comments

It’s been a while.

Not my fault, I swear. The internet here has been unbearably slow, thanks entirely to the millionth rupture of the Asia-America Gateway.

We’re talking dial-up speeds on American websites. Meaning about 20 minutes to load a single page on WordPress.

YouTube videos? Hope you enjoy 144p resolution. Not that I’d know, because even that doesn’t run smoothly. It’s like watching a grainy slideshow from the world’s first color camcorder—if that camcorder was previously buried in sand for a week.

I hope you’ll excuse me for not writing up posts this week with quill and parchment and sending them to you via carrier pigeon.


What is the Asia-America Gateway, and what does it have to do with the internet in Vietnam?

Very little if you only use local websites, and everything if you need to watch puppies playing with babies on YouTube.

The Gateway is one of three major undersea internet cables connecting Vietnam to the rest of the world, running from California to Hawaii to Guam to the Philippines to Hong Kong…to Vung Tau, an hour from Saigon.

If that sounds like a long way to go, you’re right. And breaks are frequent.

The cable has been damaged 3 times since I touched down in Saigon last August, and was down just a couple weeks before that in July.

Vietnam’s internet does run through other cables, but the vast majority of…internet…juice…comes through the Asia-America Gateway.

And when it goes down, you notice.

If you’re wondering how an undersea cable can just break so often, the answer is sharks.

That’s right—sharks are complete assholes. Frequently trashed in the press for being vicious man-eaters and having “poor dental hygiene,” sharks are rightly pissed. Their passive-aggressive solution is to sever our precious, undefended fiber optic cables with their teeth.

If you’re too lazy to read that article, you missed that Google covered stretches of that cable in freaking Kevlar. Maybe they should stop screwing around and install those old-school anti-submarine mines to protect our God-given right of YouTube. You know, the ones that were so successful at stopping the sharks in Finding Nemo?

According to this article, Vietnam’s major ISPs are going to be connected with a brand new cable to the US starting in 2016, but right now the reality is…breaks are not uncommon.

That being said, when the net is working, speeds are comparable or faster than speeds in the US. If you’re planning a visit, just don’t be surprised if you can’t spend all day Tweeting about how much traveler’s diarrhea you got from the hotel restaurant. (But it looked so clean!)

Not until next year, at least.

Until then, do your part and eat shark fin soup.


  1. Guy

    Hi bud. Glad to see you haven’t lost your sense of humor over them sharks. I tried to forward to FB but it won’t go.

        1. Author

          Looking into it. Seems like this post and the last one on coffee are messed up. I changed my share button widget but it didn’t fix the problem, so I’m going to assume it’s Facebook’s fault right now. It shares correctly with Twitter, Google+ and email.

          If you click the Facebook icon, it just gives you a bland little box with no info, right? It still links to the post, but it has no details about the post.

          1. David

            Actually won’t post at all for me. Says link cannot be shared.

          2. Author

            Damn you David. You broke my site. Go home.

            It lets me share the link, and I see a few other people have as well. Hopefully it’s straightened out by today or tomorrow. Facebook is a control freak when it comes to…well, everything. I think you know my disdain already.

            I can’t even select which image to feature when I share my posts. If Facebook’s algorithms don’t like any of them, it picks NONE of them. Meanwhile, Google+ shares it perfectly with the image and everything. It’s just Mark Zuckerberg trying to get advertising dollars out of me.

            Not going to work, Mark. I know you personally read my blog. You’re the guy in Samara, Russia who hits my site hundreds of times and I just blocked on Google Analytics.

  2. David

    Wait, why do the sharks attack the cables? What’s in it for them, do they enjoy the taste of copper?

    1. Author

      Not clear. People have guessed either A: Because of something to do with sharks sensing electromagnetic fields, or B: they’re curious. Either way, I wish they’d get back to eating Nemo.

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